What the Truck?!?
Why Lantzville needs a new fire engine and why they’re so expensive
Hundreds of hours of work from a team of Lantzville Fire Rescue volunteers and District personnel are poised to pay off as Council reviews bids for a new front-line fire engine.
In the neighbourhood of a half a million dollars, the recently closed tender represents one of Lantzville’s largest ever procurements for its fire service. Transparency has been a guiding principle for the new engine committee, and to that end here are some answers to questions you might have.
Why does Lantzville need a new fire engine? Haven’t you already got a couple?
LFR operates five fire fighting/rescue vehicles: Engine 1, our 2003 front-line pumper; Engine 6, a 1986 pumper; Rescue 3, a 1994 rescue truck, Engine 5, a small, 2009 off-road wildland pumper and Engine 4, a 1981 pumper. The Hall also employs a 2009 Chevy Silverado pick-up as a Command vehicle.
Last spring, District received the results of a Fire Underwriter’s Survey, the mechanism by which the insurance industry establishes residential and commercial fire insurance. The report substantiated the need for a community of Lantzville’s size to operate two front-line trucks. At 10 years old, Engine 1 is half-way into the (maximum) 20-year life expectancy of a front-line pumper. At 27 years, Engine 6 received credit only as a second-line vehicle. As our insurance rates would reflect Lantzville’s failure to meet the Underwriter’s criteria, District took the decision to obtain a second front-line truck.
Your trucks are looking pretty good. Do you really have to replace them?
In a small community fire engines often don’t rack up many kilometres, and of course firefighters take great pride keeping their engines looking pristine. But the wear and tear on components such as pumps and transmissions (pumps are engine driven) can be tremendous. So while a truck like our 33-year-old Engine 4 may be shiny on the outside, it’s plenty tired on the inside.
Engine 1 cost about $340,000 when we bought it. Why the increase in price?
In 2003 the average cost of a new car was slightly over $23,000. Today it’s over $31,000, (US figures). But inflation doesn’t account for the entire increase. E1 was built on a commercial truck chassis, a cheaper alternative to a purpose-built truck. It’s essentially a road-going truck with a pump in it. The new truck will be a purpose-built fire apparatus, making it substantially safer and more effective.
Purpose-built sounds expensive. Is that really necessary?
A fire truck designed by an experienced firm to be just a fire truck will always be the best choice. Our new truck will have significantly more roll-over protection, airbags for driver and passengers, much better handling, (including a turning circle to rival that of a car and better ascent/descent angles, so we’ll be better able to get into driveways and other tight spots), better brakes, better lighting, more engine power, and easier access to the pump, ladders and hoses. Finally, purpose built fire trucks have a much more robust chassis, meaning less maintenance over the long term and, well, a longer term overall.
So, you’re saying we’re getting a Cadillac of fire trucks?
Fire trucks of the sort we need range anywhere from $480,000 to $600,000. In order to keep costs down your LFR committee added almost no options – no remote nozzles or scene lighting, no fancy gadgets and we said no way to the Scotchguarding. Far from being a Cadillac, it’s more of a Subaru – nothing showy, just a good quality vehicle that will serve this community reliably for decades.